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Editor’s Choice: Sam’s Favorite YA Book Releases of 2022

SCI-FI & Fantasy

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

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“Hotel Magnifique” follows 17-year-old Jani as she discovers the secrets of a mysterious traveling hotel and tries to rescue her younger sister from the nefarious maître d’hôtel. This book was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2022, and it did not disappoint! It had spooky elements, magic and a great romance story, too.

Part of the charm of the book was that magic was used through specific magical objects, which reminded me of one of my favorite TV mini-series from years ago called “The Lost Room” starring Minnesota native Peter Krause. In the series, the main character uses magical objects to find his daughter, who had disappeared through a magic door. The author of “Hotel Magnifique” is currently a Minnesota resident, too, so there are a ton of regional connections, which made me even more excited to read it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a bit of magic.

Only a Monster (Monsters #1) by Vanessa Len

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“Only a Monster” is about 16-year-old Joan, who discovers she is from a long line of monsters—people who steal time from humans’ lives in order to time travel. When she discovers her monster lineage, she also discovers that her crush, Nick, is from a line of monster hunters—determined to kill all the monsters in his path.

This book was one of my favorites of the year because of the constant moral dilemmas Joan faced. She wants to save her family, but she also feels guilty every time she takes time from a human. When the monster is the hero of the story, it adds layers of intrigue because it feels weird to root for someone who should probably be the villain. It teaches the reader a lot about how to identify your morals, and how to be okay with your identity even if it isn’t what others want or what you expected. This book is a great read for anyone who enjoys a good anti-hero.

Belladonna (Belladonna #1) by Adalyn Grace

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“Belladonna” was my favorite spooky season read and is a perfect book to get in the mood for Halloween. It follows Signa, a girl who has always been surrounded by death yet cannot die. When Signa’s current guardian dies, she is sent to live with her last living relatives who are still in mourning from a recent death in the family. But when Signa arrives at their estate, she quickly realizes that her aunt’s passing was not an accident. With the help of a mysterious stable boy and Death himself, she slowly uncovers the culprit behind her aunt’s murder.

I loved this book because of how oddly sweet the character of Death is. As a young adult book, I think it teaches a lot of great lessons about how to think about death and how to cope with those around you passing away. It’s really hard to understand the process of dying when you’re young, but this book changed my perspective even as an adult. It’s a great, but often dark read.

Youngbloods (Impostors #4) by Scott Westerfeld

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The finale of the “Impostors” series, a sequel to the “Uglies” series, “Youngbloods” brought back a couple of the main characters of “Uglies” and tied everything together beautifully. For those of you who have not heard of the “Uglies” series, it takes place in a distant future where people get compulsory cosmetic surgery to become a “pretty” when they turn 16 years old. The original series overturns this societal norm, and the sequel series instead revolves around a set of twin sisters, one of whom was raised to be a combat-ready body double for the other. The series follows the twins as they try to break free from the impossible hold their father has on them in order to forge their own, new paths.

As someone who read the “Uglies” series as a teen, I was ecstatic when I found out there was a sequel series. Scott Westerfeld’s books meant so much to me as a kid, and the fact that current teens could experience the “Uglies” world for the first time today because of the “Impostors” series made me even more excited. “Uglies” and “Impostors” hold great messages about not conforming to what everyone else wants of you, and do a great job highlighting the modern teen experience—with social media-like technology consuming their lives—mixed with future tech like hoverboards and surveillance dust. “Youngbloods” did a great job of wrapping up the series, but still left room for more stories if Westerfeld decides to write more. If you pick up this series, start with “Uglies,” then work your way to this one! It’s great for anyone who likes sci-fi series like “Divergent” or “The Hunger Games.”

Contemporary & Romance

A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy

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“A Little Bit Country” is a great contemporary romance about a boy who wants to be a country music star and another boy who wants nothing to do with country music. Emmett wants to be a gay country star, so he auditions to work at an amusement park for his favorite country music artist Wanda Jean Stubbs and lands the gig! When he moves to Tennessee, he meets Luke, who wants nothing to do with country music or Wanda Jean Stubbs. But when Luke quits his factory job and needs to find a new one, he ends up working at the same amusement park as Emmett. Slowly but surely, the two fall in love.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was more than a little awkward at times, which perfectly sums up the teenage romance experience. Emmett and Luke had to navigate family troubles outside of their relationship, too, which made it more compelling—it wasn’t only about them, it was also about their families. This was a wholesome book, and I would highly recommend it if you need a light read without a lot of drama.

Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

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I didn’t pick “Well, That Was Unexpected” out on my own—I received it in a book box I am subscribed to—but it ended up being one of my favorite YA reads of the year! The book follows Sharlot, who is dragged unwillingly to her mother’s native country Indonesia, and George, the only male heir to one of the wealthiest families in Indonesia. After their parents catfish each other, Sharlot and George end up fakedating to appease their parents. But when they start to have feelings for each other, the guilt about lying to each other almost ruins everything.

This book was perfectly cringe-worthy and absolutely filled with teenage angst. I hadn’t read a book that so perfectly portrayed the teenage experience in a long while, and I think I laughed out loud about a hundred times throughout the book. This contemporary rom-com is so funny, and also really immerses the reader in Indonesian culture. It brings another culture into perspective from both a native’s perspective and an outsider’s perspective, which not a lot of books—especially YA books—do. If you need a good laugh, this book is definitely for you.

Horror & Thriller

Lord of the Fly Fest by Goldy Moldavsky

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“Lord of the Fly Fest” is exactly what it sounds like—a mix between “Lord of the Flies” and the failure of the music festival, Fyre Fest. Rafi, a teen podcaster, gets tickets to Fly Fest to get the exclusive story on musician River Stone’s tragic past. However, Fly Fest turns out to be a scam, there is no food and not enough tents for everyone, and no one knows how to get off the island. As the island slowly descends into chaos, it seems Rafi is the only one who still cares to find a way off the island.

While this book did have its serious and thriller-like moments, it was mostly funny due to the ridiculousness of it all. The fact that none of the celebrities and influencers seemed to understand that they’d been scammed (or were in complete denial) was frustrating at times, but it also led to a lot of hilarious situations. I expected it to be more gruesome because of the connection with “Lord of the Flies,” but it wasn’t that bad at all. This book would be perfect for people who wondered what it would be like to be at Fyre Fest.

Never Coming Home by Kate Williams

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“Never Coming Home” was another trapped-on-an-island book, but this one is much scarier. When ten teen influencers get invited to a private island getaway, they expect to be in for a real treat. When they arrive, the island is run-down, and they assume someone will be back to get them soon—it must have been a mistake. But as the influencers start getting killed off one by one, it is clear that someone has something else planned for them.

I was lucky enough to get a free copy of this book, and I was so excited to read it. Each chapter followed a different influencer, and all of the characters seem equally guilty, which makes the ending more ambiguous. While they hinted at it, the ending was ambiguous and open-ended, which gives the reader a chance to get imaginative in figuring out what really happened. Though this book was a murder mystery, it is categorized as YA, so it isn’t too gruesome. It’s a perfect read for fans of “Only Murders in the Building” or “Fargo.”

Written by Sam Kise

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